The research process eight steps
- Formulation of a research problem.
- Conceptualising a research design.
- Constructing a research instrument or tool for data collection.
- Selecting a sample.
- Writing a research proposal.
- Collecting data.
- Processing data.
- Writing a research report.
1-Formulation of a research problem
This is the first and the most important step of the research process. It identifies your destination.
As in the absence of destination, it is impossible to identify the shortest route. In the absence of a clear research problem, a clear and economical plan is impossible.
If one wants to solve the problem, then it must be clear to him that what actually is the problem. It can be said that large part of the problem lies in knowing what one trying to do.
A research problem may take a number of forms, from the very simple to the very complex one. The way you formulate the problem determines every step that follows:
- the type of study design that can be used.
- the type of sampling strategy.
- research instrument that can be used or developed.
- the type of analysis that can be undertaken.
Hence you should give it considerable and careful thought at this stage.
It is extremely important to evaluate research problem in the light of the financial resources available, time available, your and your research supervisor’s expertise and knowledge in the field of study. It is equally important to identify any gaps in your knowledge of relevant disciplines, such as statistics, required for analysis. If you have a plan to use computer software then you must have sufficient knowledge of that.
2- Conceptualising a research design
An extremely important feature of research is the use of scientific methods. Research process involves systematic, controlled, valid and carefully established associations and causes that permit similar outcomes under the given set of conditions.
Research process also involves
- identifying gaps in knowledge.
- verification of what is already known.
- Identification of past errors and limitations.
The validity of what you find largely rest on how it was found.
Main function of research design
- Main function of research design is to explain how you will find the answers to a research problem.
- The research design sets out the logic of our inquiry.
The research design should include the following:
- The study design.
- Logistical arrangements that you suppose to undertake.
- Measurement procedures.
- Sampling strategy.
- Frame of analysis and time frame.
For any inquiry, the selection of an appropriate research design enable you to arrive at valid findings. A faulty design will result in misleading findings and is therefore wasting human and financial resources.
When selecting a research design it is important to ensure that:
- It is valid workable, and manageable.
There are number of study designs. You need to be equipped with the most common ones. Select or develop the design that is most suited to your study. You must have strong reasons for selecting a particular design. You must be aware of its weaknesses and limitations.
3-Constructing a Research tool for data collection
Research tool may be defined as:
Anything that becomes a means of collecting information for your study is called a research tool or a research instrument. For example, observation forms, interview schedules, questionnaires, and interview guides are all classified as research tools.
Constructing a research tool is the first practical step in carrying out research process. You will need to decide how you will collect the data then you construct a research instrument for this.
If you are planning to collect data specifically for your research then you have to develop a research instrument or select an already developed one.
If you are using a secondary data (information already collected for other purposes), develop a form to extract required data.
Field testing a research tool is an important part. But as a rule, field testing should not be carried out on the sample of your study but on a similar population.
4-Selecting a Sample
The accuracy of your estimates largely rest on the way you select your sample. The basic objective of any sampling design is to minimise the gap between the values obtained from your sample and those prevalent or dominant in the population.
The underlying theory in sampling is that, if a relatively small number of units is scientifically selected, it can provide a fairly true reflection of the sampling population being studied.
Sampling theory is guided by two principles:
- Avoidance of bias in selecting sample.
- the attainment of maximum precision for a given outlay of resources.
There are three categories of sampling design:
- Random sampling designs.
- Non random sampling designs.
- Mixed sampling designs.
There are many sampling strategies within the first two categories. You need to be equipped with these sampling designs to select the one most appropriate for your study. You need to know the strength and limitations of each. You also need to know the situations in which it can or it cannot be applied in order to select the most appropriate design. The type of sampling strategy you use also determines your ability to generalise from the sample to the total population and the type of statistical tests you can perform on the data.
5-Writing a research proposal
Before writing a research proposal, you have done all the preparatory work. Next put everything together in a way that provides adequate information. This will give information about your research report to your research supervisor and others.
This overall plan tells a reader about your research problem and how you are planning to investigate, and is called a research proposal.
The main function of research proposal is to detail the operational plan for obtaining answers to your research questions. It ensures readers of the validity of methodology adopted to obtain answers.
Universities and other institutions may have different requirements about the contents of research proposal. Requirements may also vary within an institution, from discipline to discipline or from supervisor to supervisor.
A research proposal may tell you, your supervisor and the reader the following things:
- What are you proposing to do.
- How you plan to proceed.
- Why you selected the proposed strategy.
A research proposal must contain following information about your study.
- A statement of the objectives of the study.
- a list of hypothesis, if you are testing any.
- the study design you are proposing to use.
- the setting for your study.
- the research tool you are planning to use.
- information on sample size and sampling design.
- information on data processing procedures.
- an outline of the proposed chapters of the report.
- the study problems and limitations.
- the proposed time frame.
6-Collection of Data
Having formulated a research problem, developed a study design, constructed a research instrument and selected a sample. Now you collect the data from which you will draw influences and conclusions for your study.
Many methods could be used to gather the required information. As a part of research design, you will decide the procedure through which you want to collect the data.
At this stage you actually collect the data.
For example, depending upon your plans, you might commence interviews, mail questionnaire, conduct group discussions or make observations. Collection of data by any method may involve some ethical issues as well.
7-Processing of data
The way you analyse the information largely depends on two things:
- the type of information: descriptive, qualitative, quantitative or attitudinal.
- the way you want to write your report.
There are two broad categories of report: quantitative and qualitative. The difference is more academic than real. Because in reality you need to combine quantitative and qualitative skills. But there are some only qualitative and some only quantitative studies.
In addition to qualitative and quantitative distinction, it is equally important for data analysis that you want to analyse it manually or by a computer.
If your study is purely descriptive, you can write your report on the basis of your field notes, manually analyse the contents of your notes, or use a computer program such as Nudist or Ethnograph for this purpose.
If you want quantitative analysis, it is also necessary to decide:
- upon the type of analysis required. For example frequency distribution, cross-tabulations, regression analysis, factor analysis or analysis of variance etc.
- how it should be presented.
- variables to be subjected to these statistical procedures.
8- Writing a research report
Writing the report is the last and for many, the most difficult step of the research process. This report informs the world of
- what you have done.
- what you have discovered.
- and what conclusions you have drawn from your findings.
If you are clear about the whole research process, you will also clear about the way you want to write your research report. Your report should be written in academic style and be divided into different chapters and sections based upon the main theme of your study.